PM Lee to meet Abe on four-day visit to Tokyo

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Novotel Brisbane Hotel on Nov 17, 2014.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Novotel Brisbane Hotel on Nov 17, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will make a four-day official visit to Tokyo starting today, during which he will meet his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

The trip marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement yesterday.

PM Lee will receive from Mr Abe Japan's top honour for a foreign dignitary on behalf of the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March last year.

Japan has posthumously awarded Mr Lee the prestigious Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers to recognise his contributions to the development of bilateral relations over several decades.

This is the second award Japan has conferred on Mr Lee, who in 1967 received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga had said, in announcing the award in February: "Mr Lee strived to strengthen relations with Japan and was successful in building a friendship between the two nations."

Other dignitaries who have received the award include former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr Abe will present the award to PM Lee at a bilateral summit meeting, and will host a banquet for Mr Lee and the Singapore delegation.

The trip reinforces the robust economic and people-to-people ties between the two nations.

Singapore is Japan's top Asian foreign direct investor, while Japan was Singapore's eighth-largest trading partner and second- largest foreign direct investor.

Last year, nearly 800,000 Japanese tourists visited Singapore, while more than 300,000 Singaporeans - or about one in 10 citizens - went to Japan.

During his trip, PM Lee will meet Japanese political and business leaders. He will also deliver a keynote speech at a special session of the 22nd Nikkei International Conference on The Future Of Asia, held by Japanese publisher Nikkei.

The late Mr Lee used to attend the annual conference, and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong gave a speech at this year's event, which was held in May.

PM Lee will also meet Singaporeans who are living in Japan at a National Day reception.

He is accompanied by Mrs Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, senior ministers of state Josephine Teo and Sim Ann, as well as North West District Mayor Teo Ho Pin and MP Zainal Sapari.

The delegation will also include senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office, the MFA and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be Acting Prime Minister in PM Lee's absence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'PM Lee to meet Abe on four-day visit to Tokyo'. Print Edition | Subscribe